Observing Form

Well, my plans for going out tonight are hampered again my clouds, fog and inversion. Clear Sky Chart says tomorrow should work, let's hope. So tonight I made a new observing form and thought I would share it. It is based on the one by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada with my modifications on it. Please feel free to use it, copy it, modify it for your own uses. If you go to the RASC site and look at their form, they have a second page that fits with this one with an explanation. I'll cover parts here from my form. The PDF version and a Word Version are below. They are in Google Documents and you can view them and then decide if you want to download them.

Page: You may want to keep your logs by type of object and put a page number on them, or some put logs in order by date of observation. Many keep them in a three ring binder which I suggest.

Date: Date the observation takes place using this format as recommended by the RASC: January 1st, 2010.

Time: Time of the observation in Universal Coordinated Time. Where I live in Utah we are 6 hours behind UCT in standard time and 7 hours behind in daylight savings. So I add those hours to my current time to get the UCT. This allows others to know what time your observations occurred in relation to their own time zone. It is something that moving forward I have to do a much better job as I have fluctuated between local and UCT time.

Location: Where your observing session took place i.e. Stansbury Park, UT.

Seeing: Using the RASC form I used their transparency model of 1 hazy or murky to 5 perfect.
I used a 10 point scale on seeing goign from 1 (rampant scintillation to 10 very steady; no twinkling even at your highest power). This is a subjective rating.

Limiting Visual Magnitude: Using the RASC handbook and the Little Dipper as the guide, this reflects the faintest naked eye star visible. For questions please see their handbook or if you haven't purchased one, great investment of $25 (and I have no arrangement with the RASC for monetary kickback).

Object: Please list the catalog number like M1 for Messier 1, or NGC 3047 etc.
Type: OC (open cluster); GC (globular cluster); SNR (Supernova Remnant; EN
(Emission Nebula); RN (Reflection Nebula); PN (Planetary Nebula); DS (Double Star).
For Galaxies I list them as: SG (Spiral Galaxy); BSG (Barred Spiral Galaxy); EG
(Elliptical Galaxy); IrrG (Irregular Galaxy).

Mag: Listed Magnitude of this object.
Size: ngular size of this object.
Const: What constellation this object is found in.
Instrument: What instrument did you use to view this object
Eyepiece: Size of eyepiece(s) used to observe (or the one you used the most).
Filter: Type of Filter used (if you used one).
RA/Dec: Right Ascension (in Hr, Min., Sec.,) and Declination (Deg. Min., Sec.,) of the object.
Notes: Notes from your observation
Sketch: Area to sketch the object as seen through the eyepiece you have used the most on this object.

I have also picked up on one item the RASC has on their form that I need to include. It is a place to record a chart reference to where on a star chart an object is located. For example, Sky Atlas 2000 Chart 8 20h etc. This will allow the user of the form to find the object again, and others who may have the same atlas to know where to look to find the object.

Edit: I made the change below

If you have comments on the form please leave them and I will try to adjust. The form was made in Microsoft Word for a Mac (you'll need the Mac version or the Office 2007 version of word). I also made it into a PDF so if it doesn't work, please let me know. Here is the link to GoogleDocs where you can download it from:

Edit: Use the PDF version as this one seems to be the one that is working correctly.

PDF Form:
Astronomical Observing Form

Microsoft Word (on Mac):
Mac Word or 2007 Word Version

Also, in case anyone wants to see what I hope to be going after in January (since December has been a dismal failure for Herschel Objects) here is my list. Again this is in Excel format for a Mac or for Excel 2007. If someone leaves a comment and wants it in a different format I will try my hardest to accommodate.

Herschel Focus Items January 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to each of you today! I haven't been out in over a month due to being ill and just yucky winter weather. I was hoping to get out tonight but the clouds have moved in where I live. Oh well, I guess its just not to happen.

I do want to make you aware of a wonderful service that Gary Honis is doing (and I got the link from Cloudy Nights). It allows you to print out in whatever size you want, and even in a business size the moon phases for each month in 2010. Could help in making plans to observe in the new year! Thanks Gary for doing this and I'll sticky it in my one my links on the right hand side. Here is the link: Moon Phase Calendar 2010

Merry Christmas and I sure hope I can get out sometime soon!


NGC 2467 and NGC 2261 Hubble Variable Nebula

Well, I am feeling much better today and ready to observe having recovered from a bad respiratory virus and having been glutened at worked last week twice. Sometimes I hate have Celiac disease but that is for another blog. I still have a little bit of recovering there before the system has reset completely but that is happening soon. So I should be ready to go but where I live in Utah is horrible for pollution right now. Good news a storm is coming in to mix up the air which is good. Bad news, I won't have clear skies until Christmas night but I should be able to get out as my in-laws are coming and my wife will welcome the opportunity for me to go observing, besides being very understandable of it.

So I thought I would post a couple more observations from last February 2009. I am not going to post my

NGC 2467 Emission Nebula
February 20, 2009; 3:10 UT
Herriman UT
XT 8
92x using 13mm Stratus
Seeing 8/10
Trans: 4/5

I found this while looking for NGC 2452, a planetary nebula in Puppis. The notes are vague stating I started at Asmidiskie and went down to Omicron Puppis and then diagonally down to the left from there. I had my Orion NB Ultrablock filter in trying to ID the planetary when off in the eyepiece I noticed this nebula. I would not have detected this without the filter being in. There is a central white star that seems to be lighting up this object. I have to keep my eye patch on while writing and sketching or I lose some of the brilliance of this object. The object is gray with some white or brighter regions to the southeast. It spreads out more to the southeast and is larger there.
There is an asterism of a triangle made by 3 bright stars that point at NGC 2467. The star that makes up the point seems to have some nebulosity around it also (I did not include that in the digital sketch). Averted vision brings out more of a white color and much more of the size of this emission nebula. I found this to be a very interesting object and look forward to learning more about it. The nebula is diffused and has an irregular shape in the eyepiece.

Below you can see the digital sketch, the sketch I made at the eyepiece. I did not include the rough sketch from my notes, but probably should.

NGC 2461 Hubble Variable Nebula
Febuary 1st, 2009
3:47 UT
Constellation: Moncereos
13mm Stratus @ 92x
Orion Ultrablock NB Filter
Seeing 7/10
Trans: 4/5

A nice jump for a nice looking object. Went to 15 Mon (the bright star in teh Christmas Tree cluster) and go past HIP 31955 on the left in a reflector. Now pass the two stars that are together, one being HIP 31955. Jumpt pass TYC750-1749-1 to HIP 31996. With dark adapted eyes find two sets of two stars that form a box next along three stars spread out to three stars that are tightly together. From the bottom of that asterism go across to a bright star and then go diagonally and before the next star you are there. It is critical to have dark adapted eyes on this object. Wonderful object to view. The fan is slight at first, but then with averted vision the shape of the fan expands, making it look comet like at 92x. Nebula is triangular shaped with the part by the top star brighter than the bottom of the fan.


Old Observations

We had an excellent night on Monday, December 14, 2009 and more on that on another date. The weather here in Utah has been horrible. Storms, snow and clouds. I don't mind observing in the cold, I just need some CLEAR SKIES during this new moon phase. Doesn't look like I am going to get it . . .

So to put some images from some observations from almost a year ago in February 2009, I selected two fun Planetary Nebula's to post. Both are not hard to find, and offer some fun looking at them. Both observations were made using a XT8 Classic, a 13mm Stratus, 2x barlow and a 6mm Plossl.

NGC 2022 a Planetary Nebula in the constellation of Orion. XT8 with a 13mm Stratus and a 9mm Expanse. Seeing 7/10; Trans: 3/5

This is a very faint PN that requires dark adapted eyes and knowing what a PN looks like to find. In the 13mm Stratus it took averted vision without the filter to located this object, but once I did and focused on it, the PN actually became pretty large, showing off more of its size. At 133x the shape came out even more, ensuring that this is the PN. 266x was too much tonight based on conditions. Not hard to find if you have a good star chart (top of Orion) and in my view it looked like a football or a Rugby ball.

IC 418
Planetary Nebula in Lupis
XT8; 21 & 13mm Stratus;
2x Barlow
Orion Ultrablock NB Filter
Seeing 7/10
Trans: 3/5

Fun PN to go to starting from Rigel. With my scope tonight at 92x with the filter in I could see the central star with averted vision. Direct vision would take away the central star while bringing out more of the nebula. Reverse was true without the filter. The nebula has a ring shape at 194x and is around the central star. Edge is diffused with some hints of blue around the edge, but mainly gray.

My sketch over emphasizes the size of the PN to show its characteristics, and I put too much blue into it. This is one of my first digital recreations from the sketch I did at the eyepiece.

NGC 2438 Planetary Nebula in Puppis
XT8; 13mm Stratus; 2x barlow
Orion Ultrablock NB Filter
Seeing 7/10
Trans: 3/5

At 92x this is a grayish blob in the EP and with averted vision I can see a bright core or star (not sure which) the shape of which is roundish. The nebula stands out in the filter quite well and is diffused across the diamter unless I use averted vision. At 194x the PN is larger and even more diffused and irregular in shape. I do not believe I can see or detect the central star here.


Dr. Richard Pogge New Podcast

If you've been around awhile in amateur astronomy you should be aware of two podcasts done by Dr. Richard Pogge from Ohio State University. You can find his home page here. He has two wonderful podcasts, Astronomy 161 An Introduction to Solar System Astronomy that has his lectures as a podcast located here. Dr. Pogge also did Astronomy 162 Introdcution to Stars, Galaxies and the Universe found here.

Now he has Astronomy 141 Life in the Universe; an introduction to Astrobiology. You can find that class, it's notes and the podcast links here.

Another easy way to sign up for these is to subscribe to them via the iTunes Store. They are free to subscribe and they just take the time to download. So if you have ever wanted to audit (take a university class for no credit) here are three classes that you can do that with and learn a ton. I enjoy Dr. Pogge's delivery style and feel he makes his classes appropriate for non-astronomy majors for whom he targets them to. They make great listening to in a commute via your plug to your CD/Radio player in the car, or on a commuter rail, bus or anywhere. Let's learn from an expert!
I am downloanding them right now and will listen to them while driving to and from work. Perhaps once a week I'll post a review of his lecture and one or two items I learned from them, and perhaps you can comment on them.

Sorry about no observations, the weather outside is truly frightful, around 15 degrees with snow falling. I may get a session in later this week but this weekend isn't looking good either. Seems the weather pattern is in a rut of being bad during the wanning moon and new moon stages, and then being nice and clear for the waxing gibbous, full moon and waning gibbous stages. Sigh, so many objects to view, and lately I have time in the evening but no cooperation from the skies. Here's hoping you have clear skies where you are.


365 Days of Astronomy

The year is getting old now and with this being the International Year of Astronomy the IYA group put together 365 days of Astronomy Podcasts. They can be found here. Simply go to the site and look over the podcasts and then click on the title. You'll go to the main area where you can learn about the podcast, the author and a transcript. If you look on the home page to the left you can subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes (that's how I do it) or via RSS. There are some very excellent podcasts in this collection that are good for beginners, intermediate and advance amateurs.

If you go to the calendar you can see the podcasts that are upcoming. There are a couple I think some may enjoy listening to. They are:

Monday, Dec. 7th Don't Lick the Telescope and Other Tips for Cold Weather Observing by Mike Simonsen of Slacker Astronomy and his tips on observing in cold weather (he lives in Michigan and has observed over 56,000 observations of variable stars, many I'm sure in cold and frigid Michagan weather!).

Tuesday Dec. 8th What is the Kuiper Belt? Talks about Pluto and those other Kuiper Belt Objects

Pause, this is an important item. Some of these podcasts are great for teachers to share in support of curriculum they teach, depending on age and development stage of the child. They do incorporate modern technology, a pod cast that can be listened to in iTunes or other such outlets or on a MP3 player or iPod player.
Another item, if you have some speakers with an iPod or a basic CD player (download and burn them on the CD, the ones you want to play) and then use them in outreach to supplement what your doing.

Thursday, Dec 10th, Blue Star Blues (talks about why a blue star could be blue and the important role these giants play in the universe)

Monday, Dec. 14th Tycho Brahe: All about this wonderful astronomer and a good one I hope to let students know about another early astronomer besides Copernicus and Galileo.

Friday Dec. 25th Star of Wonder.
Star of Wonder examines the theories behind the celestial event that prompted the Magi (Three Kings) to travel to Bethlehem. Was this light an exploding star, a brilliant comet, or an unusual grouping of planets? Presented by The Adler Planetarium in Chicago and I'm sure this will fit with the Astronomy Magazine article in their December issue.

Sat. Dec 26th Confessions of a Christmas Trash Scope by Richard S. Wright. Synopsis from the site:
could someone REALLY get a decent start to a lifelong and rewarding hobby with such an abomination? Indeed, it might just kick start a career to boot. Hear how one man’s childhood dream to own a powerful telescope taught him to turn lemons into lemonade… and opened up the wonders of the night sky, despite all advice to the contrary

One of the things I love about this site is that you or me, or anyone could have signed up for a date and then create a podcast and have it presented here . . . well, see their site as they are now fill. Wonderful and fun resource and one I hope you find interesting. I would love to create a site where someone posts a pod cast and then in a thread we discuss that podcast, much like a forum site (CloudyNights comes to mind) but with video. I fear though that space would take up too much but perhaps if it was limited to just one podcast a week . . .; something I'll have to research and think about.

Weather last night was really cold but I had a commitment with the wife so no observing. Today it is starting to snow and will until next Thursday. Go figure, during the waxing gibbous, full moon and waning gibbous moon the skies were clear. Now as we approach last quarter, waning crescent and new moon the weather turns. That's how the last 3 months have been! Clear skies to you.


Advance Astronomy Learners 1st Night

Tonight at my school, I was able to hold despite the full moon, my first star party of the year for my students in what we call our Advance Astronomy Learners. First task was to teach them how to mount and align a finder scope on a XT6 and then how to swap it with a EZ Deluxe Finder. The students as would be expected preferred using the EZ Deluxe Finder with its red dot. We began by them examining the moon and looking at Tycho right at sun down before the moon got too bright. Next, they were able to bag Jupiter and Alberio on their own using the EX Deluxe Finder. Not bad for my 12 year olds. Examining Jupiter they saw the four Galile0 moons and some of the bands on Jupiter. Students were using a 25mm, 17mm and 10mm Orion Stratus Plossl. Views were good despite the moon light. They enjoyed looking at the varied colors of Alberio.

While the younger students were doing this, my middle school students were busy as well. Using their XT6 scopes they found NGC 457 the ET Cluster and M31 and 32. It was like a hive of bees tonight and it was just a matter of showing how to use the tools, and letting them go. I had warned them to dress warm and suggested what to wear, but being young and thinking they would be all right, they didn't come prepared. Luckily I had some gloves and that helped as I shared them and mothers, four who came, had brought jackets. None had hats though and I again admonished them to wear some type of hat.

So tonight in about 1 hour my new students learned and ran a XT6 and bagged Jupiter and Alberio. My middle school students bagged NGC 457 and M31 and 32. I was quite proud of them and very happy to see them make the progress they did tonight. Every time I hold one of these (once a month) it convinces me of one error that most clubs make regarding kids. We tend to show off for kids, and often at a public star party that has to be the way it is. However, I feel we need to do better. We need to not just show, but instruct and let the public, especially youth, use equipment. Clubs can set up the loaner scopes they have at a star party and have an online list where the public can sign up to learn how to use a scope at the party on a first come first serve basis. Perhaps club membership might grow, etc.
So, for me it comes down to trusting a kid, show them what to do and then observe them doing what they've been taught and be available to support them. The end result is that the youth of today learn how to star gaze and more importantly, we may just bag one or two in the future when they become adults to take up the hobby or gain an interest in science and pursue a career in that field. That is something we all need. Please take the time to show the wonders of this marvelous hobby to the youth of today. I can honestly say that though I am tired tonight, what has been a very difficult two weeks for personal reasons took a backseat to watching these kids shine, follow procedures and gain confidence using equipment just warms one soul in the midst of thirty degree weather dipping into the high twenties. Clear skies to you and to the young astronomers out there.